“I enjoy watching reruns of Saturday Night Live and counting all the dead people.”–George Carlin
Ah, summer. I’m not actually on vacation, but my neurons are. Here then, forthwith, is a rebroadcast of my post that was Freshly Pressed on WordPress last September. I’m still getting Google hits on this one, though we might have to call it Slightly Stale Pressed now.
September 23, 2012
“You’re not famous until my mother has heard of you”–Jay Leno
(Jay Leno graduated from Emerson College the same year I did. Aren’t you unimpressed?)
Lindsay Lohan…Paris Hilton…Charlie Sheen…you just gotta follow these people to be “with it” in this day and age. What I can’t figure out is exactly what “it” is. The nonsense involving these silly (do I dare say ridiculous?) excuses for humanity, and the speed with which their inane meme virality propagates throughout the internet and general mediasphere is stultifying.
How do we quantify this vacuous tripe? Quite obviously with:
The Index of Inane Celebrity Meme Virality
Get out your calculators folks, though the math on this one may require something more like a Cray supercomputer. This process requires not one step, but three.
- Rate the inanity
- Compute the Virality Index
- Classify the virality using the Virality Classification Scale
This part is for those of you who—like many politicians—prefer fuzzy math. In order to compute the virality of an inane celebrity meme, you first need to give it an inanity rating. This, however, does not compute. You need to estimate it by a process that could be seen as similar to the way we old folks were taught to compute square roots in days before electronic calculators. You sort of have to zero in on it—surround it, using a combination of whatever logic or intuition works for you.
Using a scale of 0 to 1.0, we rate the inanity based on how unusual, how cable newsworthy and, of course, how inane it appears to be. Using the Lindsay Lohan example, let’s rate some real and imagined events.
Lindsay Lohan gets up in the morning and brushes her teeth (or not). Probable rating=0 (probable rating because, again, there is some subjectivity here).
Lindsay Lohan gets busted for another probation violation. Approximate rating=0.5 (This is fairly commonplace but due to media culpability still maintains some newsworthiness. Also, the specific story behind the arrest may result in some adjustment up or down; the next item demonstrates this.)
Charlie Sheen stubs his toe on the curb of 34th Street in NYC, stumbles into oncoming traffic causing Lindsay Lohan to swerve her speeding Porsche through a display window at Macy’s, decapitating several mannequins, skidding across the retail floor and then crashing through a sidewall into a back room where she runs over Paris Hilton who was in the act of giving her boyfriend a you-know-what. Absolute rating of 1.0. This theory does not permit a rating higher than 1.0, but we’ll give this one a 1.0 with a star, meaning it also generates spontaneous orgasms in Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and every Fox News and CNN anchor past, present and future. (Note that while coverage on Comedy Central will actually lampoon the coverage by the other networks, this will add even greater fuel to the viral fire than serious reporting).
Computing the Virality Index
Here comes the fun.
ξ = Φ(F+T)(µ-110)
ξ =Virality Index I chose that squiggly symbol because I think it looks like Kate Middleton mooning the paparazzi.
Φ =Inanity rating Aren’t those Greek thingies cool? This one is iota, as in “I don’t give one iota of a hoot about these nitwits”.
F= number of “friends” or “likes” on celebrity’s Facebook page
T= number of Twitter followers of the celebrity There is a reason they call it TWITter.
µ =the median IQ of the set whose members are F+T. For the uninitiated µ is the scientific symbol for micro. How appropriate. (Can’t you just imagine those two sentences being uttered by Dr. Sheldon Cooper?)
To sum it up:
The virality index is the inanity rating multiplied by the combined number of Twitter and Facebook followers multiplied by what I call the vacuity index (median IQ of all followers minus 110).
Classify the Virality
For any chance at virality, the final Index number MUST be negative. This works perfectly fine for most of the personalities discussed above. If we are talking about Stephen Hawking, however, there is a better chance of finding virality in the singularity at the center of a black hole.
The classifications of virality are as follows
If ξ ≤ -100,000 minimally contagious
If ξ ≤ -500,000 highly contagious
If ξ ≤ -1 million immutably viral
If ξ ≤ -10 million globally pandemic
If ξ ≤ -100 million worthy of hours of uninterrupted coverage on CNN and FOX News.
Still to be determined is the threshold at which Geraldo Rivera coverage kicks in.
So if we compute the Charlie Sheen meme virality index for the automobile accident scenario hypothesized above, we multiply the inanity index of 1 times the combined number of his Twitter and Facebook followers (roughly 10.5 million, don’t worry about being exact, this is fuzzy math) times the vacuity index. We will estimate the latter for Sheehan as (100-110)= -10. This may be generous but 100, after all, is the definition of median IQ. This yields a score of -105 million. If you compute and add to this the scores for Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan who were also involved in the scuffle, the Index plunges much lower. The New York Post would be sure to issue a special edition.
This leaves one unanswered question, however. We now know how to compute the manner in which these viral memes are turned on. But what determines how they are turned off? As you would expect, I have the answer which I call the medialogical constant. I will discuss this in the next Equations of Everyday Life post, which may or may not be published within your lifetime.
Images credit: Meme Center All other material in this post ©2012 Mark Sackler